North Texas Dean Leads Research of Successful Super Bowl Ads

NBCUniversal, Inc.

It's mere minutes, sometimes just seconds of TV, for which businesses shell out up to $7 million to catch the eyes of the year's biggest TV audience. But have you ever wondered, what’s the recipe for a successful Super Bowl ad?

It's a question Rama Yelkur first posed to marketing students in Wisconsin nearly 20 years ago.

“It all started in a marketing class, a promotions class, I was teaching in the dead of winter,” said Yelkur. I thought, oh the Super Bowl’s coming up in the end of January. Let me create an assignment. Let’s assess together what drives the likability or success of Super Bowl commercials.”

Today, as the Dean of the business school at Texas Woman's University, it's an assignment she's not only refined but turned into real-world research.

Each year, she recruits a panel of students to code each year's commercials, like this year’s preview of the Amazon Alexa ad featuring Scarlett Johansson and Colin Jost.

“This platform is to create brand awareness. It is for companies to showcase themselves,” she said.

And over the years, she's determined the best recipe to do so, or at least the best ingredients, including the commercial's length, humor, use of celebrities, kids, animals and its sex appeal.

“And this will all compile to add likeability,” said senior marketing student Michael Gyure.

More importantly for the companies paying for them, it’s the return on investment.

Through her research, Yelkur has become one of the nation's leading experts on the subject, consulting for clients like Kimberly Clark, Hormel Foods, Disney and NBC Universal.

“It turns out to be a good story that you can laugh together in a group of people that you're watching the game with and you can enjoy it. It's entertainment,” said Yelkur.

Though her favorite place to share what she's learned remains in the classroom.

“It has helped them grow personally and professionally, and so it is the gratification. This is why I’m in this business because I get to impact students,” she said.

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